Love story competition 2021 - Winner

Amanda Fennelly

Winner
Title
Someone I Used to Know
Competition
Love story competition 2021

Biography

Amanda Fennelly is a radio producer and presenter with RTÉ, Ireland’s national broadcaster, and has a degree in journalism. She has dabbled in creative writing since she was a child, doing a number of courses over the years, and has tried her luck in WM competitions a few times but until now was only shortlisted once. She was on the verge of taking a break from creative writing so this achievement has given her confidence the boost it needed to keep working towards her dream of one day having a novel published.

Someone I Used to Know By Amanda Fennelly

When I saw you, it felt like I hit the pause button on everything around me. I wasn’t expecting to run into you on a cobbled shopping street, with people rushing around in all directions, unaware of the fact that my whole world just stopped turning for a second because there you were.
It’s been ten years since my eyes drank you in, since my nose was full with the scent of your hair. Your hair. It was long and dark when we were together but now you had it in one of those cute wavy bobs just below your chin and it was a lighter brown with blonde highlights. It somehow made you look younger than I remembered and yet more sophisticated at the same time. You wore a long, belted cream coat, skinny jeans and knee-high black boots with a huge bag dangling from your elbow and sun glasses perched on your head. You were looking up and down the street, completely oblivious to the admiring glances I saw some men shoot your way when they thought the women they were with weren’t looking, and completely oblivious to me standing across from you.
But then your head turned and stopped. Your eyes met mine as if they were two magnets who had no choice but to follow the laws of physics. Unlike me you didn’t gasp, you didn’t show any surprise. Instead, you looked uneasy and I thought I should just walk away, pretend that I didn’t see you, pretend I wasn’t who you knew I was. But I couldn’t do that, I’m sorry. I needed to speak to you, to hear your voice. I had been waiting for this moment for ten years.
‘Beth? Is that you?’ I said as I walked towards you.
They were not the words I wanted to say, they were not the words that had gone through my head on nights when I lay in my bed, sometimes alone, sometimes with a sleeping body next to me, and imagined what it might be like if I saw you again. But the words I wanted to say scared me and would scare you if I said them.
‘Wow, Adam, it is you, I wasn’t sure…’
Your voice trailed off but your eyes never left my face.
‘How are you? You look… great.’
Well that was an understatement, you looked beautiful, sexy, elegant but great was all I had the courage to say.
‘Thanks, so do you,’ you smiled, ‘still wearing that leather jacket, I guess you were right after all.’
Our third date together, we went shopping before dinner and I bought this jacket. We were poor college students and I had saved up months for this. You couldn’t understand why I wanted to spend so much money on a piece of clothing but I told you it was an investment, that this jacket would last me years, decades even. Then on the way home after dinner you were feeling cold so I put the jacket on you. You snuggled into it and finally admitted it was a good buy.
‘So um, what have you been up to? Did you ever end up writing that book?
I remembered nights when we lay entwined together and you would tell me about this idea you had for a novel and as you explained the plot to me and got so passionate and excited, I would kiss your neck and marvel at your imagination and determination.
‘I work in PR.’
‘Oh right. Well, I bet you’ll get around to it at some point.’
You nodded your head but didn’t look so sure.
‘What about you? Did the band ever take off?’
‘Ha! No but I went travelling for a few years and now I’m back working as a sound engineer… got a job in a studio just around the corner from here actually.’
You gave a half smile and impatiently looked at your watch. I realised then that us bumping into each other was not the momentous event for you that it was for me. What was I thinking, that after all these years you’d forgive me for breaking your heart, would rush into my arms and kiss me with your hands on both my cheeks like you used to do?
And that’s when I saw them, as I looked down at those hands that used to caress my face, the wedding band and diamond solitaire that match perfectly on that finger of your left hand.
Suddenly he was there beside you, your husband, looking at you quizzically while clutching the tiny hand of a little girl who was a mini version of you and looking up at me with those same brilliant blue eyes.
‘Who’s this Mama?’
Your husband glanced in my direction, clearly wondering the same thing.
‘Someone I used to know in college darling. Well it was great to see you again after all this time Adam, take care.’
As you hurried away with them, your husband looked back and I could see he was asking you more questions but you were dismissing them, dismissing me.
Someone I used to know. That’s how you described me. If someone asked me to describe you, I would probably say you are the love of my life, the one who got away, the only woman I’ve ever truly loved, the best thing that ever happened to me.
Maybe it was better this way. You’re married, you have a daughter, I just want you to be happy. In my head all this would have gone so differently. You would be as pleased to see me as I was to see you, I’d ask you for a drink, you’d say yes and we’d go back to one of our old haunts and we’d laugh about how different it was or how it was still the same. Then I’d take your drink from you, and kiss you on the lips, softly first and then harder and let my kiss express the regret, the sorrow, the desire for forgiveness and the hope to start over again. But instead, I walked in the opposite direction to you, trying to accept that now I was just someone you used to know.

*****

I heard your laugh from across the street. I’d recognise it anywhere, even after all these years. That laugh that never failed to make me smile. You were standing across the street on your mobile and wearing that same old leather jacket. After all this time it still looked so good on you. And just for a moment I wanted to rush over to where you were and place my hands over your eyes like I used to do and say ‘guess who?’ I’d wait to hear what crazy answer you would come up with this time (the Pope, Oprah, Madonna) and then I’d say, ‘No silly, it’s someone you know.’
I glanced up and down the street and hoped you wouldn’t notice me. Rob had taken Molly for a hot chocolate while I did some shopping and they would be back any minute. There was no way I could let Rob meet you. If he saw us together, he’d just know. Know that I loved you once in a way that I have never and will never love him. Know that I still love you and probably always will.
I knew I should pretend I didn’t see you but I couldn’t take my eyes away from where you were, I wanted to see you one more time. Then our eyes met because you had seen me too. And now you were walking towards me, smiling that boyish smile of yours. Your eyes had a few more wrinkles than they once did and the stubble that always dusted your chin was now a proper beard but you still made my heart beat faster.
I wanted to hate you back then when you broke my heart but I couldn’t. My friends said that you just got scared of how strong our feelings were for each other. That you just needed to grow up a little and you’d be back someday to find me and we’d be end game.
But you never did show up. I waited and waited. I dated other men but never got serious with anyone. So then I just got tired of waiting. When Robert asked me out I said yes and this time I did allow it to get serious and it was nice to feel loved again, to feel wanted. So I said yes to moving in together, yes to buying a house, yes to getting married, yes to having a baby. But every time I said yes, your face would appear in my mind and I’d wonder where you were and wish you would come back before I took that next step. Now here you were finally, when it was too late, asking me about things no one else knows but you.
Why didn’t you come back to me earlier? Why didn’t you show up at one of those moments when I said yes and tell me ‘no, he’s not for you, this life isn’t for you’. I’m not unhappy, Rob treats me well, he’s a fantastic Dad and a good husband but he’s not you.
And then they’re next to me, Rob and Molly, wondering who you are and I didn’t know what to tell them, I was afraid my words would betray how I feel about you. What I said is not a lie, but it’s also so far away from the truth that the words broke my heart all over again when I dared speak them out loud. But this is all you can be. It’s gone too far now for me to turn my life upside down, to walk away from all this. Instead, I had to do the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, and walk away from you, someone I used to know.  

Judges Comments

Love stories don't always have happy endings, but they can pull on our heartstrings - which is what Someone I Used to Know, the winner of WM's Love Story competition, does in spades.

The format is simple: two monologues, one for each of Adam and Beth, a pair of former lovers who meet by chance in one of those 'brief encounters' that are a stock-in-trade of romance authors for the very good reason that they mirror the pivotal moments when the direction of a life can change. In this case, though, we learn it's too late.

What this story does brilliantly is show what's going on beneath a surface, via two interior monologues that reveal the desperate poignancy of how the two characters misread each other. In a story filed with misunderstandings and cross-purposes, Amanda's dual narrative format allows the reader to put together a true picture. As we see beneath the exteriors Adam and Beth present, the reader comprehends more than Adam and Beth do about the relationship behind an encounter that could have - should have, if they had been able to see into each others' hearts and minds - changed everything.

Someone I Used to Know is a story in which the path of true love does anything but run smooth, but it is a well-crafted, beautifully told story of the heart that shows the enduring power of love. Adam and Beth don't get their happy ending, but the reader is given a picture of a love that has survived over years and marked both lovers for life.

 

Shortlisted and runner-up
Runner-up in the Love Story competition was Christine Griffin, Hucclecote, Gloucestershire, whose story is published on www.writers-online.co.uk
Also shortlisted were: Ana de Andrada, Bracknell, Berkshire; Valerie Bowes, Caterham, Surrey; Dianne Bown-Wilson, Drewsteignton, Exeter; Andrew Brown, Mickleover, Derby; Felicity Cousins, Wadhurst, East Sussex; Mark Dorey, Pontypridd; John Glander, Wickford, Essex; Jennifer Johnson, Whaley Bridge, Derbyshire; Katie Kent, Bicester, Oxfordshire; Diane M Smith, Ewhurst, Surrey; Jackie Winter, Blandford, Dorset.